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Tax season off to bumpy start
Experts say some refunds arriving in 7-14 days
• You can track your refund via irs.gov. But have your Social Security number, filing status and refund amount ready. To avoid system delays, the IRS said, the best time to check on refunds is evenings and weekends.
• Errors on a return can cause refund delays, too. Make certain to list the correct Social Security numbers for yourself, your spouse and dependents.
— McClatchy Newspapers
Yuba-Sutter tax professionals generally say the tax season is normalizing after a late start bogged down the process and left filers — including those counting on credits the most — wondering when refunds might boost their bank accounts.
The federal "fiscal cliff" led to the IRS not accepting returns until Jan. 30, about a week later than expected and two weeks behind the norm, said Terry Meyer, general manager at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service in Marysville.
"(It's) one of the roughest seasons we've had because of the delays we've had," she said.
Cynthia Peña, owner at Peña Insurance & Tax Services in Linda, said staff worked until midnight three nights in a row once returns could be filed.
"We had to stockpile hundreds of returns in that time," she said, adding the office received 296 IRS acknowledgments in one day.
Customers curious about their filing and refund status also had less information this year, as the IRS didn't provide agents and professionals with a chart indicating when a refund could be expected based on a corresponding filing date. Instead, the government only provided an average number of 21 days.
"This tax season, I'm unable to guarantee anything," Peña said about customers' questions, adding that most refunds are running between seven and 14 days.
And while direct deposit refunds are now averaging seven to 10 days now at Jackson Hewitt, Meyer said a lot of the area's low-income taxpayers are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a break of up to $6,044 for a person with three of more qualifying children.
Counting on a return to help pay the bills, EITC-claiming filers accustomed to receiving refunds by early February had to wait a little longer this year, Meyer said.
"They really depend on their earned income credit coming through," she said.
Jami Brown, owner and enrolled agent at JLB Group in Yuba City, agreed with Meyer's assessment, saying returns claiming EITC are the slowest ones to have refunds processed.
"The IRS has added a bunch of checks into the system for identity fraud," she said.
As in most years, Brown said the majority of people who file early on have simple tax returns, while businesses and taxpayers with more paperwork usually come in closer to tax day, April 15.
Elsewhere, the forms needed to claim the residential energy credit for various energy-efficient home improvements weren't available until last week, Brown said, delaying anyone who hoped to file early on and forcing more work into a shorter season.
Anticipating the bottleneck early on, Burrell Tax Service owner Bob Burrell said his Yuba City office encouraged customers to track their refunds on the IRS website and let them know when they started coming in.
And despite some IRS hiccups this year, Burrell said a plus is the government agency is processing returns and refunds as they come in, rather than sitting on batches and depositing funds at the end of the week.
"They're processing pretty much daily," he said.